Stop law reform until Netanyahu conflict-of-interest deal, say academics in court petition

The petition calls for an interim order against the advancement of Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin's judicial reforms.

Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen gesturing at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen gesturing at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The judicial reforms proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin should be frozen by an interim court order until a conflict-of-interest arrangement is implemented for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urged petition filed by a group of academics on Tuesday.

The petition calls for an interim order against the advancement of legislation related to powers of the judiciary, the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee and the appointment of legal advisers to the government.

Previous filings for interim orders were rejected, but the petition was filed after Levin's judicial reforms were announced last Wednesday.

Why do the petitioners want Israeli judicial reforms delayed?

The reforms seek to institute an Override Clause against the High Court of Justice's striking of Knesset legislation, regulate the use of judicial review to a super majority, end the use of the Reasonableness Clause, regulate the independence of government legal advisors, and place more politicians instead of judges on the judge selection committee.

Some of these reforms could impact or influence Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trials, the petition said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein seen during the vaccination of the two million recipients, in Ramla, January 14, 2021. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein seen during the vaccination of the two million recipients, in Ramla, January 14, 2021. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Various NGOs, including the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, have filed petitions to the court, demanding that the Attorney-General’s Office reorganize a conflict-of-interest arrangement with Netanyahu.

A 2020 arrangement implemented by former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit, and upheld by the High Court in 2021, touched on the items addressed in the petition and conditioned Netanyahu’s formation of a government.

The petition by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel also called for a limitation on Netanyahu’s appointments in the Israel Police and the Justice Ministry, limiting his interaction with the communications industry and not undertaking legislative actions that could impact witnesses in his trial.

"A conflict of interest settlement is the minimum required to ensure that Prime Minister Netanyahu's decisions and actions as prime minister are not affected by the indictments pending against him."

Rotem Bavli Dvir

“A conflict-of-interest settlement is the minimum required to ensure that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decisions and actions as prime minister are not affected by the indictments pending against him,” Rotem Bavli Dvir, head of the movement’s administrative litigation department, said last Sunday.

The movement had also filed for an interim order to prevent Netanyahu from meeting with Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara, as his coalition members have called for the division of her office, and are at odds with her over the position that it was unreasonable to accept the ministerial appointment of Shas chairman Arye Deri due to his previous criminal sentences.

The group of academics also filed a request for an interim freeze on the powers of Netanyahu in response to the passing of the Deri Law, which amended the Basic Laws to allow for his appointment despite his suspended prison sentence.

Levin announced his reforms the night before a hearing on petitions against Deri’s appointment, which was seen by many to be a shot across the bow at the High Court, as the Reasonableness Clause and Judicial Review also lay at the heart of that case. A decision in the Deri case is expected this week.

Since the judicial reform’s proposal, there have been mass protests in Tel Aviv, and they are expected to continue on Saturday.